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This week we respond to questions about radon and gluten.

Dear HOUSE Calls,

Why is radon a problem? Should I get a house tested for radon before I buy it?

That is a great question. Radon is an odorless gas that can be produced from the decay of uranium products. It is somewhat more common in older homes. It can break down over time, and if you inhale it or ingest it, it may increase your risk for lung cancer. After smoking and second-hand smoke, radon is the third highest risk factor for the disease.

You can purchase inexpensive kits to measure radon, and this is probably a good idea. Radon levels vary widely by local, so consider contacting your local health department for advice. Most of North Carolina has low levels of radon, including most of the counties in the central and eastern parts of the states. However, come counties in central North Carolina and most of the western part of the state have moderate to high levels of radon. You can get more information about radon and radon testing in North Carolina at www.ncradon.org.

Dear HOUSE Calls,

Gluten free diets seem to be increasingly popular, even for people without gluten sensitivity. Is this a good idea?

That is a really interesting question. First, let’s remind our readers that gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. The term gluten comes from the Latin word for glue, and this protein literally keeps our food sticky and chewy. Wheat is a very common part of our diet, and cutting it out can be difficult and expensive.

Gluten is the protein that people with Celiac disease do not tolerate. These people should not eat gluten. Those without known or at least suspected Celiac disease have no reason to avoid gluten.

We should say that gluten free diets are often very healthy diets. Most Americans eat far too much carbohydrate, especially simple carbohydrates such as processed wheat flour. Looking to cut out some of the wheat, and making most of the rest whole wheat, can be a big improvement in your diet and your health. As for us, we’ll continue to enjoy some whole wheat gluten (preferably with pizza sauce and cheese on top).

Exercise caution with extreme diets of any kind, and consider working with your physician or a nutritionist to make sure you are getting all the nutrients your body needs if you do decide to pursue a gluten free diet.

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